We were very close friends at a very young time in my New York life, when Annie was a good friend and Mel was a great source of help and comfort with my comedy, or so it was meant to be, The Best Laid Plans. It was unfortunately titled, because as we know from the poem, they aft gang a glee. I had written it with Annie in mind, because I loved her, who didn't, and thought her the most gifted actress on Broadway, and a brilliant comedienne which eventually nobody worked out better or made better use of than Mel. But she told me she couldn't do it, because she was doing The Devils, and when I asked why, said: "I've never played a hunchback nun before."
Mel was a great help in Philadelphia where we were out of town when plays still went out of town, giving us, as he usually does, the best joke in the show-- it was a young woman pretending to be a suicidal drug addict to win the love of a character like a straight Tennesee Williams, if you can imagine such a fantasy existing, who only likes disturbed women so he can write about them. She goes to his psychiatrist to find out about him-- the psychiatrist cannot stop talking about his favorite patient, she moves into the apartment next door and runs a gas line from her apartment to under his door. Mel broke into her apartment, smashed the window, and saved himself leaning out and heavily breathing fresh air, and like everything he does, it made the comic moment glorious. Not glorious enough to save the play, produced by Hilly Elkins, an egocentric madman, who kept calling me Bitch, which made my husband Don tell him I had a baby in my belly(Madeleine) and if he didn't watch how he talked to me, Don would have to kill him, to which Hilly replied "You and what army?" and BOOM, he was down. And Don was on top of him, and Paul Bogart, the director, (later fired in Boston) ran over and took off Don's glasses so he wouldn't get hurt by Hilly's flailing hands. A scene ultimately funnier than the play, as they fired Bogart and brought in Arthur Storch as director who killed it, except for Kenny Mars who couldn't help being hilarious as the psychiatrist, no matter what.
I was in the hospital giving birth when it opened, and my obstetrician wanted to go to the opening, so he let me out. I got there in time for the last laugh which wasn't there, so I knew it had been a disaster. Mel and Annie took me back to the hospital, and in the cab Mel said "Well, you had two things happen this week: if one of them had to be less than perfect,if your baby had been born with six toes and two noses, That Would Have been Okay; WHAT MATTERED WAS THE SHOW!" So he made me laugh, and saved my life. And when the reviews came out he and Annie came to our apartment and Annie spit on the reviews, and said "You're never as good as they say, and never as bad," and Mel said "Where is the mention of the wit?" and saved me again.
Her biggest fear once they were married, when, she told me, she would lean over him at night and make sure he was breathing, because she couldn't believe how happy she was, was that she wouldn't have a child. So i am so happy there is Max, which she must have been, too. We lost touch as you will in this world, but I never stopped loving her, and saw her and Mel a few times in LA when we would get together again. But I still miss her, so am sure it isn't easy for Mel, singular human being and formidable talent that she was.
So it's great that there's Max, though how such a funny man and such a great actress produced this mentality is a puzzle. I forced myself to sit through World War Z this past weekend and confess to not having had a great time, though it is great the movie got made and the book is selling, so the son can stand up to and probably buy some nice presents for the extra-ordinary dad. I saw Mel honored in the HBO special they did, and it really wasn't enough, because it is my theory that he personally could stop World War Z or any other disaster that arose, because he is that funny, that generous and kind.
He has, as always, given me the Best Joke for Sylvia Who? for which I am happy to credit him When/If(?) it opens.
Meanwhile, I wish him many happy evenings eating dinner with Carl Reiner, and I hope one night they'll let me come.
The world is a better place with him in it, with or without zombies.